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Bladder Cancer

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Posted by on Thursday, January 27, 2011, 4:33
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Bladder is a balloon shaped hollow organ located in the pelvic region of the body, which stores urine generated by the kidneys, until it is expelled from the body.

Bladder Cancer
Bladder Cancer

The bladder wall consists of two types of cells, transitional cells and squamous cells. Cancer or malignant tumors usually develops in the cells that line the wall of the bladder, i.e. in the transitional cells. This type of bladder cancer is known as transitional cell carcinoma. If cancer develops in the squamous cells, it is called squamous cell carcinoma. Another type is adenocarcinoma that begins in the cells that form the mucus secreting glands in the bladder. Out of these, transitional cell carcinoma is the most prevalent form. Bladder cancer is also classified as superficial and invasive cancer. When the cancer affects only the cells in the lining of the bladder, it is known as superficial cancer, while the cancer that spread to the muscle layer of the bladder wall is termed as invasive cancer. Bladder cancer can produce several symptoms. But discussing more about bladder cancer symptoms and treatment, let’s take a brief look at the causes and the risk factors of this condition.

Causes and Risk Factors for Bladder Cancer

The exact causes of bladder cancer are not known with certainty, though a number of factors have been found to be associated with this condition. The risk for developing cancer of the bladder increases with age and this cancer has been found to be more prevalent among men than women. Again, this cancer is more common among white men than African Americans, Asians and Hispanics. Apart from these, use of tobacco or smoking is one of the most important risk factors for bladder cancer. Some other risk factors for this condition are, exposure to certain chemicals like, arsenic, as well as chemicals used in the manufacturing of rubber, dyes, leather, paints and textiles, a family history of bladder cancer, personal history of bladder cancer, parasitic infection and previous cancer treatment with drugs like, cyclophosphamide.

Bladder Cancer Symptoms and Signs

Bladder cancer symptoms in men and women are more or less similar. In case of women, the cancer can spread to nearby organs like, uterus and vagina, which can present some additional symptoms. On the other hand, in case of men the cancer can spread to the prostate gland. The cancer can also invade the wall of the abdomen in both men and women. The most commonly observed bladder cancer symptoms in females, as well as men are

* Blood in urine or hematuria (the most common symptom of bladder cancer)
* Frequent urges to urinate (due to the inflammation and irritation caused by the growth of the cancerous cells)
* Painful urination or a burning sensation while passing urine
* Pain in the abdomen and in the lower back area (could be a sign of cancer spreading to the kidneys)

The above mentioned symptoms can however, be associated with conditions other than bladder cancer. Conditions like, urinary tract infections, bladder infection, bladder and kidney stones can produce symptoms, which can be very similar to the symptoms of bladder cancer. If the cancer is in the advanced stage, then one can observe a few more symptoms in addition to those mentioned above. These symptoms include, loss of appetite, unexplained weight loss, fever, anemia and pain in the rectal, anal and pelvic area or bone pain. The bladder cancer symptoms in children are almost similar to those observed in their adult counterparts.

Diagnosis and Treatment for Bladder Cancer

Diagnosis of bladder cancer involves a thorough study of the patient’s medical history and the bladder cancer symptoms, followed by physical examination, urine test, X-ray, CT scan, MRI, cystoscopy and if required, biopsy. Like other types of cancer, bladder cancer can be treated with the help of chemotherapy, radiation therapy, surgery and biological therapy. There are mainly three types of surgery, which are performed for bladder cancer treatment and these procedures are known as cystectomy, transurethral resection and urinary diversion. Chemotherapy involves administration of drugs to kill the cancerous cells, while radiation therapy uses high energy beams for this purpose. Biological therapy, also known as immunotherapy on the other hand, works by stimulating and directing the immune system to fight against the cancerous cell, and arrest their growth.

So, this is a brief overview of bladder cancer symptoms, causes and treatment. Bladder cancer is usually identified in the early stage, which makes it possible to treat the condition effectively. However, the main problem with bladder cancer is that it can recur, for which it is important to undergo follow up testing or screening even after successful treatment of the condition. To ensure prompt treatment, it is important to consult a physician at the earliest on observing the symptoms of the condition. Lastly, risk for bladder cancer can be reduced by controlling the risk factors for this condition, which means that one needs to avoid smoking, reduce the exposure to chemicals, drink plenty of water throughout the day and follow a healthy and balanced diet.

What is Bladder?
Bladder is a muscular, balloon shaped hollow organ that stores urine (Urine is a fluid that contains water and waste soluble in water that are not required by our body). The kidney separates the waste product from our blood and passes it on to the bladder in order to throw it out of our body.

Bladder Cancer:
Bladder cancer is caused due to growth of carcinogen cells in the bladder. The lumps (nodules) developed inside the bladder can be malignant or benign. There are several types of bladder cancer namely Transitional Cell Carcinoma (which is a common type of bladder cancer. This type of cancer develops in the cells in the lining of the bladder walls), Squamous Cell Carcinoma, and glandular cell carcinoma known as Adenocarcinomas.

Besides the types of bladder cancer, it is also classified based on the nature of tumor and the extent it has spread. The bladder cancer is called superficial bladder cancer if the tumor has not left the linings of bladder and has not yet spread to the other part. The bladder cancer is called invasive cancer if it has started spreading to the muscle walls of the bladder (This type of cancer has more probability of spreading to the other parts of body).

Who is at risk?
Like any other type of cancer, people in old age are mainly at risk of developing bladder cancer (People of age group 60 and above). History indicates that majority of patients suffering from bladder cancer are male patients (about 70% are male among the patients suffering from bladder cancer). According to a study obese people, cigarette smokers, and people who prefer junk or processed food and intake very less amount of fruits and vegetable in diet are at the highest risk of developing bladder cancer. Also people who are suffering from hematuria are at high risk of developing bladder cancer.

Along with the above mentioned group of people, people who come in contact with minerals such as iron, steel etc. and other cancer causing environmental toxic substances are also at the risk of developing bladder cancer.

What are the symptoms of bladder Cancer?
There are quite a few symptoms of bladder cancer, which includes:
1) Patient cannot hold normal volume of urine and needs to pass it frequently.
2) Patient may experience pain in the area near bladder such as pain in pelvis and also while urinating.
3) Burning sensation when passing urine
4) Patient may feel as if his/her bladder is filled and feel the urge to urinate but not able to urinate

How is bladder cancer diagnosed?
There are several ways to diagnose bladder cancer. Your doctor may first try to test your urine sample for possible infection and blood strains. Your doctor may suggest you to undergo Cystoscopy in order to find out any abnormality inside the bladder. A Urogram (also known as Intravenous Pyelogram) can also be used to diagnose bladder cancer (In urogram, the patient is injected with a special type of die, which is further excreted from blood by kidney. This die is then examined through X-Ray scanning in order to find out any abnormality). Along with the above mentioned techniques, CT scan, MRI scans and few more techniques such as ultrasound imaging, and urine based tests are used to diagnose bladder cancer.

Bladder Cancer treatment:
Similar to most of the other types of cancers, bladder cancer also can be treated with surgery, radiotherapy, hormone therapy, medication, chemotherapy, immunotherapy, nutritional therapy, interferon/interleukin etc. Surgery (also known as Cystectomy) is used to remove the infected part of the bladder or entire bladder from the patient’s body (the organs removed in men during Cystectomy are bladder, prostate and lymph nodes and in women bladder, uterus and also some part of anterior vagina-wall are removed). Medication can be used to destroy the remaining infected cells and help the patient regain strength after surgery. The type and combination of various treatments to be followed will be decided by physician based on the stage bladder cancer is in and the complexity involved.

For the patients with bladder cancer in its early stage, Transuretral Resection (TUR) can also be used based on the various parameters. In this technique, the tumor on the wall of bladder is scrapped using resectoscope.

However, there are certain side effects of various treatments such as destruction of uninfected cells after radiotherapy; patient might experience lethargy due to high power medication etc. It is very important to pay attention to patient’s diet and take proper medication after the cancer treatment. Patient also needs to undergo bladder re-construction therapy after his/her infected bladder is removed.

How should I minimize my risk of bladder cancer?
1) Quit smoking, as smokers are at the highest risk level of developing any type of cancer.
2) Try to include vegetables and fruits in your daily diet and avoid junk or processed food.
3) Try to avoid toxic substances such as chemicals etc. Take necessary precautions before you handle such things.
4) Exercise regularly

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